Pastry Affair takes a rustic, honest approach to food. Designed for the home baker, Pastry Affair features recipes covering everything from cake and cookies to Sunday brunch.
It is a space where you will find a generous amount of butter and sugar, photography, and a whole lot of life.
Last summer, I built a trio of large, self-watering cedar planters to start a deck garden. Our home is blessed with a large deck and, since the main living space overlooks the deck, I wanted to give it a little more life. Although we have plenty of yard space for a garden, we also have many critters (and deer) visiting frequently so it made more sense to elevate the garden to keep the plants safe from late night nibblers.
Each planter is 2 ft. by 6 ft., which leaves plenty of room for experimentation.
My interest in gardening is relatively new, but this hobby has quickly turned me into an enthusiastic plant lady. After killing every houseplant I attempted to grow up for many years, I was astonished when my black thumb seemingly turned green after moving into our house.
Apparently the trick for a green thumb is simply having large southeast facing windows—who knew?
Unfortunately, the first attempt at gardening in the outdoor planters was not very successful. In my eagerness to grow my own vegetables, I overplanted the space and didn’t do enough research on how to individually care for each plant. In addition, because the planters are self-watering (through a process of diffusion and soil osmosis), the plants with deep root systems ended up with root rot by midsummer.
By summer’s end, the only “successful” plants were the bell peppers (which grew only one picture perfect pepper each), the green beans, and the herb garden. Everything else—the tomatoes, cabbages, cucumbers, etc.—ended up producing very little or finally completing their slow death.
While the self-watering feature was definitely a curse, I only needed to water the plants once the entire season, so my laziness is more than willing to find a way to work within these constraints.
This year I am taking the failures of the previous summer and using them to (hopefully) do better this time around. To start, I did a little more planning and left more space for the plants to expand. Only plants with shallow root systems are allowed (peppers, onions, shallots, lettuce, carrots, herbs, green beans, flowers); the plants with larger root systems have been relegated to individual, well-draining containers (tomatoes).
I have my fingers crossed for now, but it will be another month or two before I’ll be able to label it a success or failure. Stay tuned.
I have plans to do a little landscaping and put in a rhubarb plant later this summer, but it will still be a couple years before we can harvest. Until then, the farmer’s market has everything I need.
I originally planned to make a strawberry rhubarb dessert, but I didn’t get around to baking until after the strawberries were past their prime. This recipe is all the better for it, because it allows the rhubarb flavor to truly shine. Paired with an almond oatmeal crust, these rhubarb-filled bars are a new way to enjoy this spring vegetable.
This recipe for Rhubarb Almond Bars is an easy way to use and enjoy rhubarb. Almonds and oatmeal come together to form the base of the bars. Sliced raw rhubarb is added to the center (no cooking required!) before the bars are topped with the remaining crust and placed in the oven to bake. The nutty almond flavor compliments the tart rhubarb well. Cut into squares and serve warm, cold, or room temperature.
Rhubarb Almond Bars
Yields 16 servings (or 8 x 8-inch pan)
Almond Bars 6 tablespoons (100 grams) butter, room temperature 3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar, packed 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon almond extract 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) old-fashioned oats 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour 1/2 cup (45 grams) sliced almonds 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt
Rhubarb Filling 3 cups (~14 ounces or 400 grams) fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/4-inch slices 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8 x 8-inch pan.
For the almond base, beat together the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until uniform. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and almond extract, mixing until blended. Stir in the oats, flour, sliced almonds, baking soda, and salt. The batter will be slightly sticky. Using greased hands, press 2/3 of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside remaining batter.
For the rhubarb filling, stir together the sliced rhubarb, sugar, and cornstarch.
Spread the rhubarb filling over the top of the almond base. Crumble the remaining batter evenly on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly in pan before serving.
Lately, I find myself gravitating towards familiar foods in my kitchen. The meals and desserts that I’ve enjoyed since childhood are on rotation—grilled cheese and tomato soup, spaghetti made with sauce from a jar, and chocolate chip cookies. It feels easier, in these final chaotic days of the school year, to reach for recipes that I know both forwards and backwards.
While there are no moments of surprise with new flavors or textures, the comfort of these routine meals is indulgent in a different way, for both body and soul.
This banana cake is one that I remember fondly from my childhood. Whenever the bananas were forgotten on the counter long enough to blacken, the mixing bowls would come out and this cake would emerge from the oven. The aroma of banana filling the air was the cue for the rest of my family to flock to the kitchen, stealing a bite or two before the cake had properly cooled.
It has been many years since I’ve last eaten this cake. Perhaps having my own little one in the house is causing these food memories to stir up, but, regardless of the reason, I am delighted to revisit this recipe.
This banana cake is a simple, unpretentious snacking cake—however, that doesn't mean this cake isn't something worth talking about.
The texture is my favorite part of this cake. As with most banana breads and cake, the final product has a bit of heft, but I think it works in the cake’s favor instead of against it. The chocolate glaze is also made with butter instead of heavy cream like a traditional ganache, which lends itself to a more intense buttery, chocolate flavor.
All these years later, my family is still in debate about the best way to eat this cake. My dad and I prefer to eat this cake chilled. The cold brings out a heaviness to the cake we both love, and the chocolate glaze becomes stiff making it literally melt in your mouth. My sister, on the other hand, prefers the cake slightly warmed, which yields a lighter feel to the cake and turns the chocolate glaze silky smooth. Though our debate may never be settled, the truth is that this cake is delicious any way you choose to serve it.
Since it is my belief that snacking cakes should be easy to prepare, instead of making a chocolate glaze, you could simply add chocolate chips to the batter to bring in the chocolate flavor without needing to use more pans. The choice, as always, is yours.
This Banana Snacking Cake combines the classic flavors of chocolate and banana. The addition of mashed banana to the cake layers lends a moistness, while a touch of cinnamon brings out a greater depth of flavor. The chocolate glaze is simple to make, melting together only chocolate and butter, but I could eat it by the spoonful (and I usually do). The glaze spreads smooth when slightly warm and holds its shape like a dream. This cake is a good option to reach for when you are looking for a sweet snack and, if your kitchen is anything like mine, it will disappear before you are ready to see it go.
Banana Snacking Cake
Yields 9 x 13-inch cake
Banana Cake 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature 1/2 cup (100 grams) white sugar 3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar 2 large eggs 3 medium ripe bananas, mashed 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 3/4 cup (180 mL) buttermilk (or regular milk)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
To prepare the banana cake, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract.
Beat in the flour mixture and buttermilk in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour. Pour batter evenly in the prepared baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake cool completely.
To prepare the chocolate glaze, melt together the chopped chocolate and cubed butter in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth and uniform. Spread evenly over the cooled cake and allow the glaze to set before cutting and serving the cake.
The fog of early parenthood has finally lifted. I have emerged stronger—with a bigger heart, immeasurable patience, and the ability to function on limited sleep. I am starting to feel like myself again and it feels good.
I lost myself in those first few months, as I imagine happens often with new parents. With the newborn routine of eat-change-sleep on repeat every three hours, I felt like a shell of my former self. There wasn’t time to explore interests or hobbies—there was hardly time to sneak in a shower.
To survive, I followed the mantra “one task a day.” Some days the only thing I accomplished was making dinner; other days it was making it to mama/baby yoga class so I could start the process of making my body feel like my own again. These small daily goals fueled me without overwhelming me.
It was the only balance I could seem to manage.
Even though I enjoyed my time at home with sweet Baby N, I credit the act of going back to work with helping me reclaim my individuality. It’s true that I am a parent now, but that is not the only attribute that defines me. I welcome the daily challenges of being a high school teacher because my students remind me of the other aspects of myself that I appreciate (plus, the knowledge that summer break is around the corner eases the transition of being away from N during the day).
Although I’ve started to realize how important it is for me to have time for myself, I still very much struggle with allowing that dedicated time. Although the days feel long, the hours are short and time seems to evaporate into the ether. The great irony of parenthood is the knowledge that I could be more present for my daughter if I spend time away to recharge myself.
This balance between a parent and an individual with my own needs and desires will be a work in progress, but the journey is helping me understand myself on a new level, which I recognize is a gift in itself.
Lemon and almond is one of my favorite flavor combinations in spring. The sharpness of lemon and the nutty warmth of almond add both warmth and a wake up call to a palate that has been saturated in the comfort of winter. Taking advantage of a day off from school and Baby N’s napping schedule, I spent some much needed time in the kitchen. It wasn’t until I had finished the photographs that I realized this cake felt—and looked—remarkably familiar.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, after an exploration into the recipe archive, I noticed this lemon almond cake was quite similar to a lemon cake I had made the year prior (down to the exact date!). Mom brain, anyone?
I like to believe these resemblances work in my favor—this cake is so good, I unknowingly created a recipe for it twice. Perhaps that is all the encouragement you’ll need to turn on the oven, zest a couple lemons, and start baking.
This Lemon Almond Cake brings together the warmth of almond with the spiritedness of lemon. The cake batter is infused with both lemon zest and lemon oil to give it a bright lemon flavor, and almond extract and almond flour to round out a nutty undertone. Once baked, the cake is brushed with a lemon glaze on the outer edges to give the cake additional flavor and to seal in the cake's moisture. This cake is perfect to serve plain and unadorned—the flavors are so vivid, it needs nothing else to feel complete.
Lemon Glaze 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar Juice of 2 lemons
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Heavily grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan. Set aside.
For the lemon cake, place the granulated sugar and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Rub the sugar and zest together until fragrant. Whisk in the vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, lemon oil, salt, and baking powder. Alternate adding the flours and milk, stirring after each addition, until the batter is smooth and uniform in appearance.
Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes before unmolding.
While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze by heating the granulated sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
Place the cake on a cooling rack and brush the glaze over the cake, giving time for the glaze to absorb between layers. Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to set before cutting and serving.
In the last few weeks of pregnancy with Baby N, one of my goals was to fill the deep freeze with meals for after baby arrived. I hoped having a stash of easy-to-prepare meals would make the recovery and transition to motherhood smoother.
After haphazardly throwing together an ingredient list (and making a memorable trip to the grocery store with a very full shopping cart), I spent most of a Saturday in the kitchen prepping meals. Ingredients were tossed into freezer bags to create over a dozen crockpot meals. A soup pot filled with oatmeal boiled away on the stove. The oven ran at a steady 350 degrees for hours. My husband dutifully chopped ten large onions by hand, doing his best to fend off the tears.
It was a production.
With a newly filled freezer, I collapsed on the couch, exhausted but pleased to cross another item off the pre-baby to-do list.
Ironically, a full three and a half months into parenthood, the deep freeze is still full of freezer meals. Although the breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal disappeared quickly, the rest of the thoughtfully prepared meals continue to wait their turn.
Although we hadn’t anticipated it, the act of cooking dinner each evening helped to keep us grounded. In our new role as parents—where everything felt new and unknown—we enjoyed the familiar routine of turning on the stove and cooking simple meals.
It was a way to connect our new lives with the old, as we evolved from a family of two into a family of three.
Lately, however, there is increasingly less space for the frozen meals as the freezer space is steadily being replaced with bags of breastmilk. It’s time to start enjoying the fruits of our labor.
While reorganizing the freezer last weekend, I was delighted to find a hidden loaf of this Banana Oat Bread buried beneath a bag of Italian chicken and a marinated pork shoulder. Needless to say, it disappeared quickly (nursing hunger is real). Unfortunately for me, there are no more loaves hiding away (I double checked), so I’ll have to bake up another one to take its place.
With my free time for baking being limited since going back to work, it would be nice to have a reason to spend an afternoon in the kitchen again. My husband already said he’d take the baby for an afternoon so long as he gets a slice warm from the oven.
I think that’s a fair trade, don’t you?
This Banana Oat Bread is simple in construction and customizable to your taste, The bread itself is subtly sweetened with maple syrup, which allows the banana flavor to shine. The addition of oats adds a comforting flavor to the loaf. My preference is to add chocolate chips and chopped walnuts to my loaves, but you can choose your own mix-ins (or forego them completely). While I like to toast each slice and slather it with butter, the bread is equally delicious served at room temperature straight from the pan.
Banana Oat Bread
Yields 5 x 9-inch loaf
4 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 2 cups or 450 grams) 1/2 cup (156 grams) pure maple syrup 1/2 cup (100 grams) vegetable oil 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/3 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour 1 cup (80 grams) old fashioned oats 1 cup (113 grams) chopped walnuts (optional) 2/3 cup (113 grams) chocolate chips (optional) 1 tablespoon raw or demerara sugar, for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 5 x 9-inch loaf pan. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, maple syrup, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until uniform. Whisk in the cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually stir in the flour and oats. Fold in the chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. Set aside.
Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth until level. Sprinkle raw sugar evenly over the top. Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.
After two months, I finally feel like I am settling into motherhood. In the foggy haze of these early days, it simultaneously feels like I have been a parent forever and for no time at all. The transition into motherhood was unexpectedly difficult for me. Since I have wanted to be a mother since I was a young child, I anticipated that the transition would be natural and instinctual. It never occurred to me that I may feel otherwise.
While not all women feel the same, I loved pregnancy. I enjoyed watching my body change, feeling the baby’s kicks and movements, and experiencing the joy of carrying a child. It helped, of course, that my pregnancy was virtually symptom-free—as far as I was concerned, there weren’t any aspects not to love.
I told my husband that I needed more time. If I could somehow be pregnant longer, maybe I would find the emotional and physical connection I needed to say goodbye to my deeply loved pregnancy and welcome a new beginning with the birth of our daughter.
When the big day arrived, I went into the hospital conflicted. Even with more time, I hadn’t been able to shift my unwanted emotions. Yet, I still felt hopeful. After reading so many stories of mothers feeling an instant deep love for their children during birth, I anticipated that these feelings would overtake me when the moment arrived.
During the C-section—when the doctors lifted my daughter over the curtain and I laid eyes on her for the first time—I felt taken aback. While I had no idea what she would look like, her actual appearance took me completely by surprise. The birth experience was shocking to me in a way I did not expect.
When they handed her to me for the first time minutes later, she felt like someone else’s baby. I felt detached and confused. Where was the instant love and connection I was supposed to feel? What kind of mother was I going to be if this is how I felt in these early moments?
I didn’t learn this until later, but over 40% of women do not bond with their babies right away. Even though my husband and I took childbirth education and early parenthood classes, our instructors did not touch on this subject. I wish I had been told my feelings were normal, that parenthood is an enormous adjustment and that sometimes it takes time for emotions to sort themselves out. Instead, I felt like I was somehow failing at this job I just began.
The next couple weeks were rough for me. I had a difficult recovery due to the C-section and resulting complications. I struggled to do the most basic of tasks, unable to sit upright or walk without enormous amounts of pain. Breastfeeding was not going well. Since Baby N was born early and weighed so little, it was vital for her to get the calories she needed to grow, but she also didn’t have the energy necessary to feed. I had to deal with the reality that I would not be able to provide milk for my daughter in the way I had planned.
The postpartum hormones hit me harder than I anticipated. I couldn’t even think about my pregnancy without bursting into tears. I was grieving the loss of being pregnant, of my life before having a child. Even though I’ve wanted to be a mother as long as I can remember (I was ecstatic when I found out I was pregnant), I was dealing with unexpected feelings of remorse—and then guilt that I could ever have these emotions at all. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation only intensified everything I was experiencing.
Life with a newborn is hard.
It was several weeks before I found myself in a better place, before I was able to fully bond with and enjoy time with my daughter. Now, of course, I can’t imagine life without her—her big smiles, goofy mannerisms, and love for sleepy snuggles.
My transition into motherhood was not beautiful or graceful. It has taken time for me to accept that reality doesn’t always match expectations and that’s okay. I expect I will learn this lesson over and over again in my new role as a parent.
Right now, the fog of early parenthood has not completely dissipated, but it is starting to lift. I am still working on finding my new identity both in and out of parenthood. One lesson I have taken away from the transition to motherhood is to have grace with myself.
One day at a time. Everything will eventually fall into place—it always does.
Blueberry Crumble Doughnuts feature a baked, cake-based doughnut. To prepare, blueberries are folded into a vanilla-scented batter. A cinnamon crumble is sprinkled over the top before baking. For best texture, these doughnuts should be enjoyed the same day they are baked, but I still savored the leftovers a day or two later.
Blueberry Crumble Doughnuts
Yields 6-8 doughnuts
Blueberry Doughnuts 1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 1/4 cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (120 mL) milk 4 ounces (113 grams) fresh or frozen blueberries
Crumble Topping 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar 1/2 cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a standard-size doughnut pan.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk until uniform. Fold in the blueberries.
Transfer the batter to a pastry bag (or large resealable plastic kitchen bag with the corner snipped off). Fill the depressions in the prepared pan with the batter until 2/3 full (alternatively, you could spread the batter into the pan using an offset spatula, but this results in more unevenly shaped doughnuts).
For the crumble topping, beat together butter and sugar until well combined. Stir in flour and cinnamonuntil crumbly. Crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until crumble topping browns and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15-20 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
My husband and I welcomed our sweet baby girl into the world before the end of 2018! Baby N has completely captured our hearts, and it is already hard to imagine life before her. It has been amazing watching her grow over the last six weeks—each day she is changing and learning new things about the world around her.
Like most birth stories, Baby N’s story is one I could not have predicted. I had an incredibly easy pregnancy. Besides some typical lower back pain, I had no other symptoms except for the growing baby bump—no morning sickness, food cravings, or exhaustion. I feel especially fortunate for this outcome because this pregnancy was considered high risk from the beginning, so Baby N and I were watched particularly closely over our nine months together.
As the weeks passed, we learned that N was going to be a smaller baby. Each ultrasound showed her overall growth percentile decreasing, but her size wasn’t going to become a concern unless she dropped below the tenth percentile. We also learned that N was breech, with her butt down and her head and feet comfortably tucked up under my left ribcage.
While it is possible for babies to flip into the correct position before birth, it becomes less likely in the latter weeks of pregnancy. Even though I didn’t really believe the old wives’ tales on how to flip a breech baby, I spent many evenings positioned upside down anyway, with a bag of frozen blueberries above my bump trying to coax her to flip around to avoid the chill. This method was wildly unsuccessful, along with half a dozen others I tried. Baby N was comfortable and would not be moved.
During our 34 week appointment, N dropped to the eighth percentile and was subsequently diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). The doctors believed this was due to increased resistance to blood flow through the placenta. We were cautioned that it is possible for the resistance to become so great that the blood flow can reverse direction, which is a very serious situation that calls for an emergency C-section to preserve the health of the baby.
This news hit us especially hard—baby N wasn’t due for another six weeks! Along with weekly appointments to closely monitor her health, we were told to pack and bring our hospital bags to the rest of our visits, just in case.
The reality that we could have a baby in a single week’s time was very overwhelming for me, especially since I assumed I would have several more weeks to prepare everything for her arrival. I spent the next week making lists of each task that needed to get done and frantically tried to get everything in order, both at work and at home.
I hoped that Baby N would be allowed to stay snuggled up under my ribcage a little longer. I still felt blindsided by the news and wasn’t ready for the pregnancy to end. I needed more time to enjoy her kicks and soak up my last few days as a non-parent.
Fortunately, my wish was granted. At our 35 week appointment, we learned the resistance was unexpectedly measuring less than it had before. At 36 weeks, the resistance was measuring completely normal, which no one (including the doctors) had anticipated. However, because N was still measuring so small for her age, the doctors believed she would do better outside of the womb. Our induction date was set for 37 weeks exactly. Baby N was going to be an early (full) term baby.
Since N was still breech, I opted to try an external cephalic version (ECV), in which the doctor manually tries to turn the baby into the correct position for birth. After two failed attempts (where Baby N refused to budge even an inch), she was born via C-section shortly thereafter.
Our little peanut was in perfect health, weighing in at a smidge over 5 pounds with a head full of fuzzy hair.
After spending a few nights in the hospital, we were able to return home in time for a quiet holiday. While the shift to parenthood was a huge adjustment, I’ve enjoyed getting to know and learn all about this little peanut. She loves to stretch for minutes at a time when she is unswaddled, clothes are her worst enemy, and her endless goofy expressions make me laugh. Who knew that simple things, like N discovering her tongue, would bring such joy? In the last couple weeks, she’s graduated to newborn sizes, and we discovered she loves to “dance” to music as she lays on the floor and kicks her legs.
Over the last six weeks, I’ve given myself a leave from the blog and social media to spend much needed quality time with Baby N. Parenthood is certainly going to be a balance, but I’m ready to start devoting more time to myself and get back to doing the things that I enjoy—like baking and sharing it with you.
This post is sponsored by Bob’s red mill. Thank you for supporting the brands I love and use in my own kitchen. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
With the holidays right around the corner (and a baby on the way!), December is shaping up to be a busy month for my family. In year’s past, it has been my holiday tradition to spend days in the kitchen meticulously cutting out and decorating my favorite holiday cookies—like these honey, sugar, and chocolate sugar cookies—to share with my family and friends.
This year I honestly don’t have the time to spare.
Instead, I’m going to feel out a new holiday baking tradition. My goal is to spend the next few days filling the freezer with cookies from easy-to-make recipes, and enjoying the remaining days by relaxing before our sweet baby arrives.
These Chocolate Ginger Crinkle Cookies meet all of my criteria this year: simple to make, freeze well, and quickly disappears from the serving plate.
For this cookie recipe, I turned to Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White All-Purpose Flour. I prefer to use unbleached flour in my baking because it means the flour is not chemically treated. To create the classic light colored appearance and delicate texture of all-purpose flour, the wheat bran and germ are removed during the milling process (which is the key difference between whole wheat and all-purpose flour).
Crinkle cookies get their crackled appearance from being rolled in powdered sugar before baking. The sugar draws out moisture from the outside of the cookie, causing the edges to dry out before the interior is finished baking. This difference in moisture levels causes the top of the cookie to take on a crinkled appearance.
With a handful of chocolate chips to provide a richer chocolate flavor and ground ginger and cinnamon to give the cookie a spiced warmth, these cookies are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth this holiday season.
One of the qualities I look for in a good holiday cookie is its ability to freeze well. Knowing I have homemade cookies stashed away that can be ready at a moment’s notice is a relief during a busy season when events pop up or unexpected guests drop by. Happily, these chocolate ginger crinkle cookies can be easily frozen using two methods.
The first method is to form the cookie dough into balls and freeze them before rolling them in powdered sugar. When ready to bake, the frozen cookie dough balls can be rolled in the sugar and head straight towards the oven. This method is great when you can spare a few minutes to bake or you want to serve hot cookies straight from the oven.
The second method is to bake the cookies as directed and allow them to fully cool before placing them in an airtight container in the freezer. When ready to be served, pull the cookies from the freezer and allow them to thaw. This method is best when you anticipate the cookies being eaten quickly since the powdered sugar can become sticky if the cookies are left out for longer periods of time.
These Chocolate Ginger Crinkle Cookies are a seasonal take on the classic cookie. The chocolatey cookies are spiced with ginger and cinnamon to bring out traditional holiday flavors. After chilling the dough, the cookies are dipped in powdered sugar and baked until they take on a crinkled appearance. These cookies are best served alongside friends and family with a tall glass of milk.
1 cup (120 grams) Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached White All-Purpose Flour 1/2 cup (43 grams) cocoa powder 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar 1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup (60 mL) vegetable oil 2 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips 3/4 cup (85 grams) powdered sugar
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, brown sugar, spices, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla, stirring until a uniform batter forms. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Place cookie dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or overnight) until completely chilled through.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Place powdered sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
Roll chilled cookie dough into 1-inch balls. Drop cookie dough balls into the powdered sugar and coat evenly on all sides. Place balls at least 2-inches apart onto a cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until cookies have a crackled appearance. Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
As our families might tell you, our wedding day, August 11th, was a long time coming. After dating for eight and a half years (surviving two years long distance, five moves between three cities, and buying a house together), the question wasn’t if Chris and I were going to get married, but when.
After finding out we were joyously expecting (!), our growing family gave us the nudge we needed to set a date and start planning. We both knew we wanted a small, intimate ceremony with our immediate family. Sharing our day with our closest loved ones felt the most special to us.
With a wedding date set for little more than two months away, we threw ourselves into planning mode and managed to have a majority of the details solidified within a week. Growing up, I had dreams of an outdoor wedding. So, we crossed our fingers against the rain and chose a local arboretum for our ceremony, hoping to enjoy the garden in full bloom.
I thought my wedding dress would prove to be the most difficult, knowing that I had to buy a style off the rack (due to the short deadline) that would also accommodate a baby bump. Moreover, I am notoriously “particular” (as my mother would say). When my sister was married a couple years earlier, we joked how I would have to try on every dress in the city before I would find one.
Yet, despite the restrictions (or perhaps because of them), the second dress I tried on was “the one.”
Although we were working on a short timeline, the ease at which everything came together made it feel as if this was the way it was supposed to be.
Unfortunately, the groom came down with the flu a few days before our wedding day. I kept myself quarantined, making frequent trips to the drug store hoping for some miracle medicine that would quickly cure him. Despite our best efforts, Chris still woke up with a fever on our wedding day. We half-joked that we would have a “first hug” instead of a “first kiss.”
While we had crossed our fingers against rain, we had forgotten to cross them against the flu as well. But, after all, we are committing in sickness and in health, right?
Even so, once the day got started, the whirlwind of getting ready and setting everything up captured our attention and left little room for worrying.
Although I expected to feel nervous about getting married, when the moment was in front of me I found I was pretty calm. After spending so many years together, our life together was already comforting and familiar.
We blocked off a couple hours before the ceremony for photographs, starting with a “first look” in the fern garden. The day may have been hot and humid, but the light was perfect (scattered gently through a Canadian wildfire haze that dappled the ground with occasional pockets of sunlight, before breaking against a clear sky). The time flew by as we wandered the grounds, laughing with our photographer (illness forgotten), and enjoying the last few moments before becoming husband and wife. We picked up a few “friends” along the way, as the tulle on my dress proved to be excellent material for capturing insects of all shapes and sizes.
After taking a few minutes to freshen up (and for my mother to guide the bug friends out from under the layers of tulle), it was time for the big event.
A month earlier, Chris and I made the decision to write our own ceremony, personalizing the details and readings on our relationship together. Instead of the traditional exchange of rings, we chose to “tie the knot,” to signify our two separate lives becoming one. The ceremony ended with our exchange of personal vows. It was short, sweet, and sentimental.
With Ella Fitzgerald’s At Last to send us off—after eight years together it was about time—we were official.
We ended the evening in a private room at a local restuarant, enjoying the several courses of food and family in equal measure.
Our wedding day may have been untraditional in many ways, but it was perfect for us.
With less than nine weeks to go before we meet our little one, the nesting phase has been setting in quickly for me. Unfortunately for my husband, this means waking up on the weekend to pressing “to do” lists featuring half a dozen lengthy chores that need to be done right now because we are running out of time.
Last Sunday I pulled out the holiday lights to hang on the roof right after breakfast. My poor husband asked if he could finish his morning coffee before pulling out the ladder.
The desire to get the house organized and ready is more than I bargained for. Even though I wanted to relax and enjoy our time as a couple before we become a family of three, the need to “nest” is proving hard to suppress.
Today’s quote is perhaps more aspirational than reflective of my current state of being, but I trust I’ll find that happy medium soon.
Although autumn squash is primarily featured in savory preparations, as a baker I have a hard time imagining it as anything other than sweet. While pumpkin is the go-to squash when it comes to baking, butternut squash can also work equally well in many of the same recipes.
For this seasonal cake, I started by roasting and pureeing a small butternut squash. The squash is then sweetened in a traditional cake batter. With the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, the cake takes on the classic autumn flavors.
And, because chocolate only makes things better, I added a cup of chocolate chips to the batter and covered the cake in a thick chocolate glaze. The combination of chocolate and spiced squash is one of my favorites. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.
This Butternut Squash Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake features the spices of autumn. Butternut squash forms the base flavor of the cake, which is enhanced with spices and chocolate chips. While the cake can certainly stand-alone without the glaze, the addition of the glaze will help seal in the cake’s moisture and enhance the overall chocolate flavor.
Serve with a hot cup of coffee, a rainy windowpane, and a sense of happiness being exactly where you are.
Butternut Squash Batter 1 1/2 cups (370 grams) butternut squash puree 4 large eggs 3/4 cup (177 mL) vegetable oil 1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar, packed 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup (170 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
Chocolate Glaze 6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet or milk chocolate, coarsely chopped 1/2 cup (120 mL) heavy cream (or full-fat coconut milk)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Heavily grease a 10-cup Bundt pan. Set aside.
For the butternut squash batter, beat together the butternut squash puree, eggs, oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt until smooth and uniform in appearance. Stir in the chocolate chips.
In the prepared baking pan, add the cake batter. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes before un-molding and transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
For the chocolate glaze, heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until steaming. Be careful not to boil. Immediately remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate, allowing the chocolate to melt for 5 minutes before stirring until smooth and uniform. Allow glaze to cool until it reaches a thicker consistency before pouring glaze evenly over the top of the cooled cake.
I have been keeping some big news from you the last few months—Chris and I are expecting! We are delighted to welcome a baby girl into to our family this January.
The announcement of this baby feels extra sweet because we were not sure this day would ever come to pass. I was born with a heart condition, which carries its own unique set of challenges. Since my teenage years, my doctors have placed a question mark over my head when it comes to the idea of carrying my own children. While I knew I wanted a family someday, the path to creating that family was always in question.
I came to terms with the uncertainty, researching adoption and surrogacy in equal measure. I was fortunate to find a wonderful husband who was open to whichever path life would eventually deal us. Yet, I still fantasized about pregnancy—how could I not? But I knew deep down it was a distant dream that may never be fulfilled.
When I was officially given the doctors’ blessing, it felt like I had been awarded a golden ticket. Happily, I can report that so far this pregnancy has been healthy, for both mother and baby. I was lucky to completely avoid many of the classic pregnancy symptoms, including morning sickness. In many ways, I have felt completely normal except for the ever expanding waistline.
As I near the third trimester, the aches, pains, and exhaustion are slowly starting to set in. Even so, these inconveniences pale in comparison to the moments when our baby shares her little kicks and movements with me. I’m trying to enjoy this time, knowing it is so brief.
I find it hard to believe that we’ll be parents in a few short months.
While this baby hasn’t brought about any food cravings, she does seem to have a preference for salty foods over sweet. Though there will always be room in my diet for cookies, I have been leaning heavily towards natural sugars the last few months, particularly enjoying the sweetness found in summer fruits.
With autumn’s arrival and apple season in full swing, I took the opportunity to create a cake to take advantage of the harvest and fall’s comfort spices. This Apple Crumble Cake is sweetened primarily with honey, which lends the cake a subtle sweetness and depth of flavor that traditional sugar alone cannot provide. Because the cake is not overly sweetened, I recommend using apples that are on the sweeter end of the spectrum, which truly allow the apple flavor to shine.
Along with a cinnamon crumble topping, the slices disappear quickly.
This Apple Crumble Cake celebrates autumn’s apple season. The cake is sweetened with honey and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Sweet apple pieces are baked evenly throughout the cake, which provide additional sweetness and texture. After baking, I recommend cooling the cake completely before cutting and serving so the flavors have time to develop. Serve the cake plain or warmed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 10-cup tube pan and set aside.
For the cake, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the vegetable oil, honey, and eggs until uniform. The batter will be thick. Stir in the diced apples and set aside.
For the crumble, stir together the flour, brown sugar, spices, and butter in a medium mixing bowl until uniform and crumbly. Set aside.
In prepared pan, spread out cake batter evenly. Sprinkle the top with the crumble topping and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring cake to a cooling rack to cool completely.